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Wireless "World Phones"

Wireless "World Phones" Now Enable You to Chat While Abroad

For years, Americans traveling abroad were held incommunicado when it came to their cellular phones, however, some wireless providers are now offering international service, all for the cost of a roaming charge.

"Companies such as Cingular Wireless offer customers international service on their own phones not only in Europe, but also in Asia, Africa, and South America - almost the entire globe, even in Iraq and Afghanistan," said Mike Bennett, consumer and government affairs executive director of Cingular Wireless.

Cell phones from the United States don't usually work overseas, Bennett said, because when wireless technologies were being created the United States used systems that were incompatible with those in the rest of the world, which opted for a single standard called GSM ("Global System for Mobiles").

Today, more than one billion people use GSM phones, making it the
dominant mobile phone system worldwide, comprising about 70 percent of the wireless market.

"Fortunately, GSM phones are now widely available in the United States, and Cingular Wireless is the largest provider of GSM services in the nation," he adds.

"If you have a GSM phone, activating international roaming service is as simple as contacting your provider," he says. "Your GSM phone assumes the characteristics of the wireless network in each country visited. So if someone is traveling in Italy the phone will work like a local Italian wireless device. Under Cingular's plan, customers roaming internationally are charged at the per-minute voice roaming rate without additional long distance charges."

Bennett says it is important to remember that just because a person has a GSM phone, it does not guarantee that it will work abroad. "Travelers must remember to ask their carrier for a 'World Phone' that operates on the four major frequencies used by GSM carriers around the globe."

Before GSM phones were available stateside, travelers from the United States had few options other than renting GSM phones while in Europe, which is expensive and inconvenient. "If your local carrier does not offer international service, you can always buy a cheap GSM world phone then buy pre-paid minutes, while out of the country," he explains. Typically this is cheaper than a week's rental of a GSM phone. At the end of your trip you can keep the phone for next time, recycle it, or sell it.

You can learn more about cell phone services online "Ask the Wireless Guru" at

(Source: Cingular)